AirAsia shutters call centers to go all-in on Chatbot and voice AI

The future of customer service is messaging and voice-based artificial intelligence, according to the airline.

AirAsia has closed its voice call centers in a move the company’s chief customer happiness officer Adam Genève said was “controversial”, but embraces the future.

Speaking at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference recently, Genève said the future of customer experience is messaging and voice-based artificial intelligence (AI).

In preparing for this future, AirAsia has gone all-in with its Chatbot, Ava.

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“We’re so proud of Ava … she’s done some amazing work for our guests,” he said.

“We weren’t the first airline or the first business to launch a chatbot but … we really believe we’ve launched one of the best in market and through Ava you can book a flight, you can add things to your booking, you can change details, she can answer hundreds of questions.”

Ava integrates into the organization’s Salesforce platform and when the bot cannot answer something, the conversation is handed over to Salesforce live chat.

“Before [Salesforce] we had nine different call centers, we had different systems managing our call centers and our live chat and our social media, and we’ve been able to bring all those things together into that Omni-channel environment,” he explained.

“As a result of that we’ve been able to do something really controversial … which is close our voice call center, because what we’ve learned is nobody wants to sit on hold to a voice call center anymore. Life is about messaging,”

With 64 billion messages a day on WhatsApp and 1.2 billion WeChat active users, Genève said the way that people are talking is changing.

He believes there are a couple of “big innovations” coming in customer experience, with the first being how customers communicate.

“People communicate really, really differently now and the way that some people communicate today … it’s very different to the way people communicated before, and if businesses aren’t already in those messaging platforms, then they’re already behind,” Genève said.

The second, according to Genève, is voice AI.

“Alexa and Siri, they’ve really brought out the voice AI … and it’s very clear that voice AI is the way of the future as well. I think that’s a really emerging market.”

Offering advice for other organizations heading down the chatbot or messaging route as a means of improving customer service, Genève said people need to be put first.

“If your people are engaged and your people are happy at work, then I think the business performance and the customer satisfaction comes with that,” he said.

“You’ve got to listen to your customers. a lot of the work we do at AirAsia is taking not just the insights we get through systems like Salesforce, but it’s getting out there and speaking to our customers.

“I think if you understand your customers and you understand your people, then your business will naturally grow, and develop and be very successful.”

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